Most people now use the internet as part of everyday life – to shop, manage personal finances, conduct business and to socialise. But its rise in popularity has meant that it has become a lucrative and anonymous way for fraudsters to prey upon victims.
The term ‘cybercrime’ is often used to describe frauds that are attempted or committed using a computer and/or the internet. It covers a range of activities, including computer hacking, virus attacks (such as ‘botnets’, ‘malware’ and ‘adware’), fake websites, cyber-stalking, email scams, and cyber-extortion, to name a few.
In most cases these activities are designed to steal a victim’s personal, bank account or credit card details for use in fraudulent activities, or to use their computer in an attack on someone else.
Some common types of internet and email scams include:
• Advance fee frauds (sometimes called ‘West African 419’ frauds): you receive an unsolicited email from a person who claims to have access to a large amount of money and needs your assistance (and your bank account) to move it in return for a percentage of the cash.
• Lottery scams: you receive an unsolicited email advising that you have won the lottery, a yacht, a holiday or some other prize – despite never entering a lottery or prize draw. You will be asked to pay a small administration fee to receive the prize (which never arrives). Many of these scams originate overseas.
• Work from home scams (sometimes called ‘money mule’ or ‘money transfer agent’ scams): you receive an unsolicited email from a person you don’t know who wishes to use your bank account to receive funds. You will then be asked to make a payment to another person or organisation after deducting a percentage as your commission or fee. Victims are sometimes lured through fake job advertisements.
• Phishing or vishing scams: you receive an email purportedly from your bank, HMRC, or other legitimate online business such as a shop or auction website. The email will contain a link to a fake but credible-looking website or ask you to call a specified number, where you are asked to update your personal and/or account information. Note: banks and other legitimate online businesses will not do this!
• Scareware: you access a website and receive a ‘pop-up’ telling you that you have some or all of the following – spyware, malware, virus, a Trojan, or pornography downloaded onto your computer. This may be accompanied by a barrage of other pop-ups. You are then offered a programme to purchase which can remove all of the above.
• Game cheat and file sharing websites: your computer is infected by malware when you download a game cheat, or share files online.
• Social networking: you post personal information on your profile page or disclose it on ‘live chat’ facilities which is then used by cyber-criminals to commit identity fraud.
• SMS phishing scams (sometimes called SMiShing): You receive an SMS text to your mobile phone confirming you’ve signed up for a service you know nothing about and will be charged a daily fee unless you cancel the order by visiting a specified website. The website then downloads a trojan onto your computer which enables it to be remotely accessed and used by cyber-criminals to attack other servers.
Source: Fraud Advisory Panel
See our earlier post on how to protect yourself from identity theft.